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Sports Health. 2012 Sep;4(5):384-93.

Evaluation and management of elbow tendinopathy.

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Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, New York.



Elbow tendinopathy is a common cause of pain and disability among patients presenting to orthopaedic surgeons, primary care physicians, physical therapists, and athletic trainers. Prompt and accurate diagnosis of these conditions facilitates a directed treatment regimen. A thorough understanding of the natural history of these injuries and treatment outcomes will enable the appropriate management of patients and their expectations.


The PubMed database was searched in December 2011 for English-language articles pertaining to elbow tendinopathy.


Epidemiologic data as well as multiple subjective and objective outcome measures were investigated to elucidate the incidence of medial epicondylitis, lateral epicondylitis, distal biceps and triceps ruptures, and the efficacy of various treatments.


Medial and lateral epicondylitis are overuse injuries that respond well to nonoperative management. Their etiology is degenerative and related to repetitive overuse and underlying tendinopathy. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and localized corticosteroid injections yield moderate symptomatic relief in short term but do not demonstrate benefit on long-term follow-up. Platelet-rich plasma injections may be advantageous in cases of chronic lateral epicondylitis. If 6 to 12 months of nonoperative treatment fails, then surgical intervention can be undertaken. Distal biceps and triceps tendon ruptures, in contrast, have an acute traumatic etiology that may be superimposed on underlying tendinopathy. Prompt diagnosis and treatment improve outcomes. While partial ruptures confirmed with magnetic resonance imaging can be treated nonoperatively with immobilization, complete ruptures should be addressed with primary repair within 3 to 4 weeks of injury.

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